The Metropolitan Correctional Center, located in lower Manhattan, has jailed a slew of notorious inmates, including Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, Ponzi scheme fraudster Bernie Madoff, mafia hitman Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano and associates of Usama bin Laden.
In recent years, the jail has faced a number of controversies over its squalid conditions, chronic understaffing and rampant spread of coronavirus within its walls.
The facility, which currently houses less than half of its normal population with 223 inmates, will be shut down while it tries to fix those problems.
“In an effort to address the issues at MCC NY as quickly and efficiently as possible, the department has decided to close the MCC, at least temporarily, until those issues have been resolved,” the Department of Justice told the Associated Press Thursday.
The jail’s pervasive problems came under new scrutiny when Epstein hanged himself in a cell on Aug. 10, 2019. The disgraced financier had tried to hang himself with a strip of bedsheet just three weeks before his suicide, but was returned to a regular cell after a week in the hospital wing.
Two guards who were supposed to be checking on Epstein the night he killed himself were browsing the internet and sleeping at their desks instead, according to an indictment of the former correctional officers.
Last March, the jail went into lockdown after authorities got a tip that a gun was smuggled into the facility. Investigators eventually found the handgun, along with handmade weapons and other contraband.
Things deteriorated further as the pandemic swept through the facility, with guards unable to get masks and soap dispensers running out in the staff bathrooms. An inspection of the jail in May of last year found that coronavirus-infected inmates were neglected and social distancing was entirely ignored.
Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco toured the jail earlier this month “to get a first-hand look at its operations and infrastructure given ongoing concerns.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.